Caring for a loved one and helping that individual age in place, in the comfort of his or her own home, is a gift. But caregiving can also be emotionally and physically draining, especially when a loved one is facing end of life issues.
According to Brent Korte, Executive Director of EvergreenHealth Home Care, choosing hospice care for a loved one with a life-limiting illness can transform a family caregiver back to a family member overnight. By having a reliable team of hospice care providers, family caregivers are able to focus on caring and not caregiving.
Arriving at the idea of hospice care can be challenging for some families, even for those individuals in the medical profession. As Korte points out, traditionally, physicians and other medical professionals are taught to suggest medical intervention and guide patients toward a plan that can bring recovery, or at the least, relief from symptoms. Family members often have very different opinions on how a life-limiting illness should be handled and managed – some wanting extreme measures to help a person live as long as possible, and others wanting to focus on comfort and quality time.
Korte encourages families to begin discussions about hospice care from a mutual place of honesty and candor. Gathering information and looking at the situation realistically are also important starting points. For example, a question Korte suggests is to ask an individual with a life-limiting illness if he or she is willing to undergo more treatment if the survivability rate is relatively low. If the answer is “no,” then investigating palliative or hospice care may make sense.
It is not uncommon for individuals to start with palliative care before moving to hospice. Palliative care addresses the needs of patients who may have more than six months to live, but who have a chronic health condition. Palliative care helps consolidate medical care through one physician, pulling together the sometimes disjointed journey of one person’s medical experience and bringing it into a single setting. Hospice care is provided for individuals who have six months or less to live, focusing on providing comfort and support to the individual and family members before, during and after passing. The transition from palliative care to hospice care is often seamless as both approaches share many similarities.
As Korte points out, hospice is a medical practice that does not change or hasten the timing of death; it changes the experience. To illustrate this point, Korte shares the story of a park ranger who was on hospice, and whose final wish was to be surrounded by Douglass Fir trees. The forest was an area in which the park ranger had worked and lived for many years and he wanted to be able to look up at the trees as he was dying, and be surrounded by family and friends. Meeting the needs of patients, says Korte, is what hospice is ultimately about.
When investigating hospice options, Korte suggests doing research to understand the philosophy for providers in your community, as they differ depending on whether they are a nonprofit or for-profit organization, and if they are faith-based or secular. No matter what hospice care organization a family chooses, the beauty of hospice, according to Korte, is the opportunity to be at home and surrounded by loved ones.
To learn more about hospice care and how it provides comfort to individuals facing life-limiting illnesses, listen to the full interview with Brent Korte in the Help Choose Home podcast series by searching for “Help Choose Home” on iTunes, Google, or on any device at https://player.fm/series/help-choose-home.
The Help Choose Home podcast series is a joint effort between the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC), Axxess, and corecubed. The vision is to provide information and resources on professional home care options to families and their loved ones. Podcasts are hosted by Merrily Orsini, president and CEO of corecubed, an award-winning homecare marketing solutions company.